The cost of living in Beijing is on par with many of Europe's most prolific capitals. As the political and cultural centre of China, it's also the most expensive city in China, and was ranked as the 20th most expensive place to live in the world in Mercer's 2011 Cost of Living Survey.
In short, despite the fact that living in China is generally more affordable than in other great economic powers, Beijing is not cheap, especially for those expats who demand a certain standard of comfort and luxury. With so many opportunities for exploration and entertainment, it can often feel like there's never "enough" money to live the life you imagine for yourself in this city.
If expats can avoid ascribing to consumer culture and can avoid paying the grossly inflated prices associated with Western-style goods and services, it's easy to live well and to save money in Beijing. Many expats are attracted to Beijing by lucrative salary packages, and if this is the case, expenses will not be a concern.
Cost of Housing in Beijing
An expat’s largest expense in Beijing will be housing. Property prices in Beijing have been increasing continuously for the last eight years, and foreigners will find that both buying and renting accommodation in Beijing can cost a huge amount of money.
As a general rule, the closer the accommodation is to the city centre, the more expensive it will be - so if housing is proving too pricey, move toward the periphery. Beijing is organised according to ring roads, where the first ring road is closest to the city centre.
Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available in Beijing, and the former will be more expensive.
Most flats in Beijing come in apartment form, and are not incredibly spacious.
Estimated housing costs in Beijing
Purchase a 2BDR apt. between 4th and 5th Ring Road: 3,000,000 CNY
Rent a 2BDR apt. between 4th and 5th Ring Road: 5,000 CNY
Rent a 2BDR apt. between 2nd and 3rd Ring Road:10,000 CNY
Rent a villa or a luxury 2BDR apt. in city centre: 18,000+ CNY
Expats should also anticipate paying for utilities in Beijing. Electricity and water are not exorbitant, though monthly costs will obviously vary according to consumption.
Estimated utility costs
Electricity for a 2BDR apt: 500 CNY
Water for a 2BDR apt: 80 CNY
Cost of schooling in Beijing
For those expat parents who plan to bring their little ones across, anticipate paying some hefty school fees. Most foreigners cost of schooling in Beijing - expensiveprefer to enrol their children in one of the international schools, and tuition in these institutions can rival that of a college back home. Fees can be as much as 120,000 CNY per year, and vary according to the school and the age of the child.
Try and negotiate some sort of education allowance in your contract, otherwise, consider homeschooling or any one of the private bilingual Chinese schools (about 20,000 CNY a year) as alternatives.
Cost of food in Beijing
Despite the high cost of housing and education, food is relatively cheap in Beijing - including good-quality food. Of course, there are a lot of five-star places that can quickly deplete your funds, but a meal in a decent restaurant for four people could cost as little as 200 CNY.
If you are brave enough, often the best and cheapest food comes from backstreet restaurants; and often eating out can be less expensive than cooking at home. That said, if you enjoy making a meal in your own kitchen, buying groceries in the fresh market and whipping up something special can cost you next to nothing. Almost anywhere in the world, Chinese food is very reasonably priced. For example, a kilo of fresh tomatoes costs 5 CNY and a kilo of minced beef costs 35 CNY.
For those expats who rely on Western food and rarely eat Chinese, the cost of food will be significantly higher. Many items considered staples in a Western diet do not exist in Chinese eating, like cheese and bread. These types of items will only be available at international supermarkets, like Jenny Lou's, targeting expats. For example, cheese costs around 30 CNY per kilo and cereal, a quintessential non-Chinese product, can be as much as 50 CNY.
Expats do not need to tip in China. Waitresses and waiters receive a monthly salary and are not allowed to take tips.
Cost of communication in Beijing
Internet in Beijing is also cheap. The cost of using broadband at home for a whole year is about 900 CNY.
It’s cheap to make local phone calls. China Mobile and China Unicom are the top two mobile service providers. Local phone calls cost about six cents per minute; the price can be even cheaper depending on which bundle you choose. International phone calls cost a lot more.
Cost of transport in Beijing
Whether you are a millionaire in charge of a huge company, or an ordinary worker that struggles to get by, one cost you can’t avoid is that of Beijing traffic – be prepared. There’s no “rush hour”, there’s only a never-ending “rush day”. It’s the biggest headache for those who commute to work by car and a nightmare for those that have to use public transportation.
Cost of transport in BeijingTravelling by car is not a wise solution because it’s always difficult to find parking, you easily get fined due to so many complicated and confusing traffic rules, and when you get stuck in traffic, you get stuck. Furthermore, the cost of leasing a mid-range vehicle, paying for petrol and hiring a driver can add up to the equivalent of a second apartment.
A leased VW Passat with driver (not including petrol) will be about 10,000 CNY per month.
It’s better to use taxis instead, as you can get off and find a nearby subway station when the traffic jam gets too hectic. Not to mention, a Beijing taxi rate is very reasonable. A short 15-minute drive costs about 20 CNY. The rate from the airport to the city centre is around 100 CNY.
Public transport is even cheaper. Bus tickets average 1 CNY, and a subway ticket cost 2 CNY for a number of routes.
Expats should plan to budget between 200 and 300 CNY per month for transportation, if you decide not to use a car.
To take public transportation or to use taxis there is no big need to learn to speak Mandarin. Expats should rather learn basic practical phrases and sayings such as “where is the taxi?” (qing wen chu zu che zai na li?) or “where is the toilet?” (qing wen ce suo zai na li?).
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I live in China so, it depends. And as a foreigner it also depends. As most foreigners get accommodation provided by their employer as part of their package. I think that is doable, but depends where you want to live, if you want live where the foreigners are in Sanlitun, that will probably cost that alone in rent. Before you think of food. But if you live in the outer parts, thats easy. And local street food ect...is only a few dollars at most. So as i said depends how you want to live.
Oooh a good apartment should cost around 200-400$. SO lets say you have 1100$ left. 3 good meals should cost around 20$ ( well it depends where you eat, if you eat at a fancy restaurant it could go up to 100$ for one meal!) Ok so good meals for one month should cost no more than 600$ Ok you should have at least 500$ for spending. You could buy a shitload of stuff, like a mountain of fake clothes, fake ipods, psps and illegal dvds. If I where you I would save up for a year and go on a vacation to Hainan :D